Rumor Roundup: Texas 2-Step
After several days of gnawing on questionable table scraps, we finally have some Grade A minor league rumors to sink our teeth into. As it happens, both of the latest drops relate to Triple-A teams in the Lone Star State. Saddle up, buckaroo!
A Spoonful of Sugar Land
On November 16, several news outlets reported that the Houston Astros had purchased the Sugar Land Skeeters and will make them their new Triple-A affiliate. Most of these source are citing a Mark Berman as the one to break the scoop with this tweet.
We all knew this was coming. There was already some overlap with the two ownership groups going back to Sugar Land’s days in the Atlantic League. For many years, the Skeeters stood out like a sore mosquito bite in that indy circuit–being the only Texas team and drawing very well in a newer facility. Last fall, when the PBA changes were first reported, Sugar Land was already in the rumor mill. They officially broke from the Atlantic earlier this year, right around the time baseball teams were figuring out what to do in the Covid summer, and they ran a 4-team indy league out of that one park.
Now the Astros have their Triple-A team for the long-term, and it’s right down the road from Houston. The Skeeters will slot into either the Pacific Coast League or a rumored third Triple-A league for teams more or less in the Central time zone. That particular detail is very uncertain at this time. Houston will also be letting go of the Round Rock Express, a club that has been passed between the Astros and Rangers a few times since founding as a Texas League club in 2000. In this most recent go-round, the Express were with the Astros for only one on-field season in 2019.
This one’s a little bit less certain, but a report from Evan Grant at the Dallas Morning News indicates that the Round Rock Express will be reuniting with the Texas Rangers. Grant cites two major league sources, and says that the Rangers are “positioned” to take on Round Rock as an affiliate. That’s kind of vague wording, but this move seems legit. J.J. Cooper retweeted the story, and as careful as he’s been since the Yankee leak, that may as well be a stamp of approval.
I’ve long held this reunion as a possibility, but I actually thought it would be more likely for the Rangers to stick with the Nashville Sounds. The move has ramifications for a few other MLB teams as well. Before this news, you could only say with certainly that there were two MLB teams–the Nationals and Brewers–with two options–Rochester and Round Rock–at Triple-A. Now this has shifted to the Nats and Crew with Rochester and Nashville, with the looming possibility of something wacky like Richmond jumping up a level.
If Milwaukee ends up with Nashville, it will be a humorous homecoming of sorts. The Brewers and the Sounds were linked for several years while Nashville was playing out the string at old rundown Greer Stadium. About seven years ago, a group of folks–including then Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin–broke ground on Nashville’s new stadium. Then, in the 2014 PDC open signing period, Nashville spurned the Brewers and signed on with the new facility-chasing Oakland A’s. Now there’s a good chance that we’ll see Milwaukee back with their old farm club, and in a new ballpark this time.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge that one of the rumors I mentioned in yesterday’s piece has been essentially dispelled. Christopher Jones, President of the Lynchburg Hillcats, tweeted that “Lynchburg isn’t folding” and also “I think the SAL will include 3 teams in Virginia (Salem, Fredericksburg and Lynchburg).”
Even though I took the time to note that the Lynchburg rumor was of “questionable validity,” I still feel icky for having put it up. I can’t say that it was ever my intention to get wrapped up in the blood-pumping idiocy of the last few weeks, but I am more susceptible to these particular rumors than I would be for other hot sports gossip. As fun as the guessing game can be, I’m starting to miss where we were at back in October, when it was suggested that it may be several months before we hear anything.
Cooper recently tweeted something fairly poignant about this whole process: “If I think I can accurately lay out 115 of the 120 but I get those other five wrong and I am wrong on one I was sure I had right (which changes two others) that means I could wrongly cause a world of hurt for eight teams. Trying to avoid doing that.”
Yep. We’ll hear when we hear. Till then, I’m going to try to stick to “rumors” with some legitimacy and anxiously await the Great Unfurling by MLB.